Note: This is something I wrote a number of years ago while studying. It was an assignment for one a communications unit. As such, I’ve left it as it was when I submitted it, any errors in grammar, spelling or otherwise are completely intact.
The scene I am going to analyse is the scene starting 58:10 and finishing 100:00 in which Ken, whilst intending to kill Ray, interrupts his suicide attempt. There is more to this scene than a simple sequence of events, and to understand this we need to expose the interacting elements, and explain their meaning.
The first thing to consider is that there is more than one scene, this is an important point and I’ll return to it in a moment. Next we will look at how these scenes interact within the scene we are viewing. I’m going to refer to tangents of the storyline as “scenes” but it’s important to keep in mind that they are just grouped sequences of events, that alone mean very little, but have can cataclysmic ramifications for the characters. Here is a break-down of what scenes are being considered in this text. We have the scene we are viewing (scene A). This operates in two parts, the intersection between Ray’s (scene B) and Ken’s (scene C) and serves as a plot device to create the climax of the film, (namely Harry’s involvement in the story). Scene B is linked to Ray’s suicide attempt. We, the viewers, aren’t aware of this scene yet, but we know of the events that lead to it, being the child’s accidental death, and Ray’s acquisition of a firearm and ammunition. Ken’s scene, scene C is where Harry informs Ken that he is to kill Ray, after which he too obtains a gun. So to summarise this scene is the meeting and manifestation of scenes B and C.
To truly understand what is happening within any scene it is important to understand the aspects that are involved in creating it. There is narrative and technique. The narrative allows the story to carry forward. In this instance we have two scenes converging on each other, and in turn they create a device by which the narrative is continued. The scene we are viewing, Scene A can be seen is this device. The importance of the scene as a device is that it allows Harry to play a larger role in the story. His involvement leads us to not only the climax of the film, but also to Ken’s ultimate demise.
Interestingly there is another scene, or sub-plot running concurrently to these events that should be considered in the context of the entire film. This being the means by which Ray acquired his firearm. Ray not only assaulted Eirik, Chloe’s ex-boyfriend, but he insulted his pride, creating an enemy in him. This scene not only serves to provide Ray with a weapon, but we find later that in creating an enemy Ray sets off the events that will lead to Ken’s death (if you remember it is Eirik who informs Harry of Ray’s whereabouts). One could argue that the scene is a catalyst that leads to the demise of Harry, Ken and Jimmy.
The technique of the scene is one of great interest. We have two positions of interest within the scope of the screen. The first of which is a central point on the screen which gives some of Ken’s point of view, it helps give us a sense of direction, and feel the intensity as Ken would feel it. I’ve highlighted this area in the images below.
(McDonagh, 2008) Ray sits at the bench alone.
(McDonagh, 2008) Ken watches Ray from afar.
(McDonagh, 2008) Ken draws his gun; notice how this grabs your attention.
(McDonagh, 2008) This shot provides a sense of Ken coming towards Ray.
(McDonagh, 2008) Ken’s aim is centred at Ray, we know this from previous shots, they have deliberately given us a location for the back of Ray’s head.
This technique allows for the intensity of the scene to build, it allows us to be afraid for Ray, to feel the heat of the guns barrel bearing down upon him. The second position of interest we are given is from Ray’s perspective. We are constantly given reference points, from the first shot of him as the camera scans across the park till the end of the scene. It is for an entirely different purpose however. Once again I’ve highlighted the region you need to focus on.
(McDonagh, 2008) Ray alone in the park, the camera holds this position until Ken is revealed.
(McDonagh, 2008) A solemn Ray, who thinks he is alone. It’s interesting to note that the position revealed as Ken’s location from the shot above, is the same location as in this shot.
(McDonagh, 2008) Ray draws his gun, surprise!
So why is this last shot so effective? It’s because we were drawn in. Once again we have a little reference point that has been provided. It was set up from the start so our eyes were looking there. We may have felt the gun on the back of Ray’s head, but we were looking to the right, exactly where the gun appears. If the shooting style of the scene was more direct, the gun may be noticed, but it couldn’t have the resounding effect that it ends up having.
The following shots have a similar style to the rest of the scene, however they are not as important, and were not completely, needed for the scene to work. They were more for the purpose of exposition and to leave no doubt for the viewers of each characters intention, including their own revelations about each other’s intentions.
The scene sets out to resolve the converging plot lines, and it succeeds. We feel empathy for both the characters and we are given some concrete evidence to support their relationship. Without the intervention of Ken, we may not have believed his actions later in the film, where he not only saves Ray’s life, but reveals that he is worth saving. This concept is intrinsic to the story in that for Ray to receive redemption, he must, like all of us, be given a chance at it.
McDonagh, M. (Director). (2008). In Bruges [Motion Picture].